One of my pet peeves is how people in the plant world, gardeners and even experts, seem to be under the impression that South Africa’s indigenous flora begins and ends in the Western Cape. The world famous South African display at the Chelsea Flower Show features mainly Cape flora with little more than token specimens of the gorgeous plants from the rest of the country – the beautiful grasses of the hinterland, the Drakensberg gladioli or the stately aloes of the Eastern Cape. Other examples abound, but let us leave it there.
Plant lovers and gardeners trek all the way to Namaqualand once a year “to see the flowers” (yours truly included, albeit not every year). It is the rare few who think about exploring the wealth of plants available in the rest of the country. On our doorstep here in Gauteng we have the prolific flora of the Suikerbosrand and surrounds. And what about the amazing flora of KwaZulu-Natal and Pondoland; the Bushveld of Limpopo Province; the escarpment and grasslands in Mpumalanga and then the magnificent flora of the Drakensberg? I recently joined the Highveld Bulb Society on a day trip to Verloren Valei Nature Reserve near Dullstroom where we had a wonderful time finding the most extraordinary ground orchids and other unexpected gems.
Let’s take off the blinkers and develop and advocate an awareness and appreciation for the huge variety of flora that all of South Africa has to offer. Maybe we, as plant and garden enthusiasts, should put together a list of “Flower Power Hot Spots” and make an effort to visit some of them at least once. Who knows – they may become a new annual pilgrimage.
IN THE GARDEN
The latest deluges have interrupted the start of our autumn pruning and we have had to turn to insect control instead. The Williams menagerie starts in the sodden garden these days. Even the chickens have had trouble keeping up with the caterpillars, the clivia worm (yes, I know it is also a caterpillar, but it deserves its own classification!), and assorted snails and slugs.
We seem to have crocosmias popping up randomly all over the garden and the delightful Japanese anemones are coming into bloom – can one ever have enough of these? Quinton Bean, Manager at De Wet Plant Breeders, gave me a selection of salvias which we have put on trial in the garden. Some of them are a veritable froth of flowers. The dichorisandras (blue ginger) are also looking particularly good at the moment.
IN THE NURSERY
On a recent stroll around the garden, it struck me how much joy I get from my ponds. There is something so calming about water as a feature in the garden, with or without a fountain or stream, and it really is much less trouble than one would think. If your waterproofing is done properly at the outset and you have a few fish to keep the mosquito population under control, all that is really needed is to empty out and add fresh water every six months or so. Don’t worry about sourcing frogs – they will have no trouble finding their own way to you!
If you think you might want to venture into water gardening, you’re invited to visit our website page on water lilies (or Nymphae – their delightful Latin name). Water lilies are easy to grow aquatic plants with long stems and attractive round leaves that float on the surface of the water. There are day- and night-blooming varieties, and the large flowers that rise out of the water or float on the surface come in shades of pink, white, yellow, blue and purple with yellow stamens. The plants are winter dormant but the pots can be left in the pond over the winter months. You don’t need a large pond to feature water lilies in your garden; they can be grown in small (60 cm diameter) pots. It is however important that your pond be deep enough to provide at least 30 to 90 cm of water above the crown of the plant.
Marvellous as they are, don’t think that water lilies are your only option when it comes to plants for a water feature or bog garden! Here are some other plants that you could consider which we have in stock at the moment.
Berula erecta is a robust evergreen plant with white flower umbrels in summer and gorgeous fern like foliage that floats on the surface of the water and forms a habitat for fish. About 60 cm high, it can take sun to semi shade.
If you are looking for flowers all year round, try Gomphostigma virgatum. This is a delicately beautiful water loving plant with silver leaves on slender stems and spikes of white flowers. Evergreen and very hardy, it grows in sun or shade and reaches a height of about 1 m. Prune back hard after flowering.
Persicaria senegalensis is a thick stemmed spreading stolenous perennial with large silver leaves. The sprays of golden orange grass-like flowers in summer to autumn are much loved by birds. The plant can grow up to 3 m in height and does equally well in a pond or in the garden if given enough water. Evergreen and very hardy, it likes sun.
Echinodorus bleheri is a tough evergreen 50 cm tall bog and aquarium plant with broad upright leaves and tall inflorescence with white flowers all year.
The gorgeous panicles of violet flowers of the summer flowering thalia dealbata or water canna are a real treat. This is a semi-hardy marginal aquatic perennial with lance-shaped grey green leaves that likes full sun and reaches a height of about 1,8 m.
If you don’t feel the need for flowers, consider the 1,5 m tall rush scirpus zebrinus for its leafless stems with striking vertical cream and green stripes. Very hardy and deciduous, it should be cut back hard in autumn to retain the stripes.
We are checking our Louisiana iris stock levels and will update the website in a week or so.
Jenny Moolman took over World’s View Clematis in Shere out on Lynnwood Road in Pretoria East almost a year ago. The specialist nursery has a fantastic variety of these beautiful plants and is open to the public by appointment. Jenny also does mail order. The next open days at the nursery are Saturday 11 March to Sunday 12 March 10:00 -16:00. You can reach Jenny on 082 855 7743.
Christine van Zyl recently obtained her B Sc degree in Landscape Architecture at the University of Pretoria and is looking for opportunities to hone her skills and beef up her portfolio. She is offering her garden design services at a nominal fee until the end of May – unless, of course, she gets snapped up by a landscaping company before then! Christine can be reached on 072 033 6179 or 012 345 4133.
We anticipate that we will be cutting back and removing trees on the sidewalk in the near future. The clivias will not survive this attack so we are going to be selling clumps at R10 a fan. Let me know if you are interested; we have a few different shades.
The recent heavy and widespread rains have been an absolute blessing but bear in mind that planting in very saturated soil doesn’t work well. I suggest waiting a week or so before catching up on your planting. Enjoy!